Right-wing media’s coverage of the attack on the US Capitol on January 6

March 30, 2022

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This white paper examines 12 major right-wing media’s coverage of the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. It uses a unique dataset of online right-wing media content that is both broad and narrow. It is broad in the sense that it includes every online article (n=399,266) published by Fox News, Breitbart, Newsmax, The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, Western Journal, the NationalReview, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, The Blaze, The Federalist and Hannity.com in 2021. It is narrow in the sense that it also includes Facebook interactions data(n=1,752,585,920), which allows the researcher to sift through mass content and focus on the articles thatgenerated user engagement on Facebook.

There are three key findings. First, compared to the mainstream media, right-wing media weresignificantly less likely to use “insurrection” in the article headlines when covering the attack onthe US Capitol. Instead, they used words such as attack, incursion, protest, or riot.

Second, compared to the mainstream media, right-wing media were significantly more likely tocover 1) media reaction to the attack – especially social media crackdown on Trump supporters; 2)investigation including the Jan. 6 select committee; 3) Trump and his political allies beingtargeted by the investigation; and 4) individuals that were arrested or charged.

Third, 200 most popular right-wing media articles generated more than half of all userengagement for right-wing media’s coverage of Jan. 6 on Facebook. Three major themes emergedfrom these 200 articles: 1) politicians (Democrats in particular) politicized the Jan. 6 attack; 2)Trump supporters were persecuted; and 3) left-wing agitators, including BLM activists,participated in the attack. Many popular articles contained disinformation. Some even spreadRussia propaganda. For example, one Western Journal article was titled “Putin rips detention ofJan. 6 protesters, accuses US Government of assassinating Ashli Babbitt.”[1]

You can access the full report here.